There are a lot of places a practitioner can go for advice - but Mark Telford believes there is no better support network than your peers.
In the accountancy sector in the UK, there is a proliferation of coaches, advisers, gurus, consultants, growth specialists – call them what you want – who all want to tell us how we can grow a bigger, better more profitable practice, faster and do it working fewer hours.
If you are active on social media or attend accountancy events such as Accountex you will have come across some of these so-called experts.
If these ‘experts’ haven’t run a practice and don’t have experience of building a successful practice are they really the best place to advise us on how to do it?
Who should we turn to if we want to grow a successful part-time practice from home, a digital practice, an advisory practice or dare I say it a £1m practice working three days a week?
My view is that we need to look closer to home to gain valuable insights, experiences, and advice on how to build and develop successful practices.
We should be speaking to our fellow practitioners, those like-minded accountants who we come across at networking events and online.
We should be collaborating with our peers and not be competing with them. Those who have been there, done it, have the t-shirt and are happy to share their story.
Some of the best advice and support I have had has come from a small group of sole practitioners who I meet with on a quarterly basis. Here we share experiences, give advice and discuss matters in a relaxed environment. No pressure, no judgement just useful exchanges of information and real-life experiences.
Any matters which require further discussion are followed up online, over the phone or in person.
If a business coach or consultant hasn’t experienced what we are dealing with, how are they best placed to offer advice on this? They may have read the right books or been on the right courses, but what about practical experience?
Have they already achieved what they are trying to sell to us? Do they have a tried and trusted blueprint which we can follow?
Bear in mind what may have worked 10 years ago probably won’t work now.
Most of these consultants target the low hanging fruit – new startups and sole practitioners who have started up with a general idea of what they want to do but without a clear plan in place to achieve business success.
Perhaps they’ve been trading a while without achieving the success they want and are desperate for guidance from those who ‘really know’ what they’re talking about.
Who is best placed to support that accountant? An accountant with a similar background who has recently faced similar challenges and come out the other side or a coach who thinks they know how it should be done?
When I started out I spoke to ex-colleagues and spent a lot of time with a local accountant who had been in practice for 20+ years. Bear in mind I had been out of practice for 16 years by the time I decided to start my practice. I had never used Sage desktop software (a blessing), wasn’t clear on what I should charge clients or how long the work would take, plus much more.
A lot of this I learnt on the hoof but I also received great advice on what I should and shouldn’t be doing, what may work, what probably wouldn’t and what was the best use of my time – from other sole practitioners. I found a great deal of valuable information on AccountingWEB.
Looking at what we do on a holistic level for a moment, there is plenty of work to go around for accountants and especially smaller practices where 50 or 100 clients may be all we want/need.
We as a collective should be supporting each other to run better practices to help improve the level of service that we provided to small businesses and individuals.
We can best do this through collaboration, speaking to our peers who know what we’re dealing with.
We don’t need advice from coaches who haven’t walked the walk.
About Mark Telford
I am an Award Winning Chartered Accountant and work with ambitious business owners to help them achieve their goals.
I do this not by submitting accounts and tax returns on time - that's the bare minimum, but by helping them achieve more. This can be business growth, business sale, succession or retirement planning, business improvement and most importantly personal goals.
All businesses should have a plan and its important to measure performance and make sure you are on track to achieve your goals. I will work with you to achieve this.
I founded Telfords Chartered Accountants as I could see that many small businesses were not getting the business support and advice they needed from their accountant. Regular financial and commercial support throughout the year is essential to help a business achieve the results the owners want.
By using cloud software from the very start we have been able to provide a year round service which helps businesses be the best they can.
We have been using Xero since 2010 and encourage all clients to use it as we believe it is the best accounting software to help them run their businesses.
I have now started working with other accountants to help them run a more profitable, efficient and enjoyable practice, providing a higher level of service to their clients - not just accounts and tax returns.